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King & Faith: The Urgency of Now

January 14, 2018

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

A conversation with Dr. Rachel Elizabeth Harding, a specialist in religions of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora and social justice activism across cultures; the Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, Lead Pastor, Glide Memorial United Methodist Church; and Dr. Charles H. Long, the pre-eminent scholar of African American religious history in the United States; moderated by Dr. Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute and professor of history at Stanford University.

This series continues on Sunday, January 21 and Sunday, January 28.



About the conversation

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside Church, New York City, 4 April 1967

This series is presented in partnership with The Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Foundation with the goal of engaging the wider scholarly, theological, clerical and lay communities in contemporary contemplation of Dr. King, his message and his work. Organized around the MLK2018 theme of the Urgency of Now, the conversations are designed to create a space to critique, analyze and thoughtfully question assumptions about King and faith, King and community and King and society, and to ignite greater dialogue and programs of action that will infuse “where we go from here.”

About the panelists

Dr. Rachel Elizabeth Harding is associate professor of indigenous spiritual traditions in the department of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Denver.  A native of Georgia, a writer, historian and poet, rachel is a specialist in religions of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora and studies the relationship between religion, creativity and social justice activism in cross-cultural perspective.  She is a Cave Canem fellow and holds an MFA in creative writing from Brown University and a PhD in History from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Dr. Harding is author of A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness as well as numerous poems and essays.  Rachel’s second book, Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering, combines her own writings with the autobiographical reflections of her mother, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, on their family history and the role of compassion and spirituality in African American social justice organizing. Rachel is an ebomi (elder initiate) in the Terreiro do Cobre Candomble community in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, where she has been a participant for over 20 years.

Rev. Jay Williams, Ph.D., became the lead pastor of GLIDE Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, California in July 2017. Jay received the Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in May 2017. The dissertation, entitled “Unholy Ghosts in the Age of Spirit: Identity, Intersectionality, and the Theological Horizons of Black Progress,” develops a constructive theology of spirit that rethinks hope, courage, and vitality, premised on insights from W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Howard Thurman. His work explores the meaning of “Spirit” in black cultural discourse at the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality: particularly how spirit-talk has been a marginalizing language of power. With research interests in theology, social ethics, and African-American religion, Jay strives for his work to help more disinherited folk find their voices.

Charles H. Long is one of the most influential and pioneering scholars in the study of religion from the past 50 years. Long has served on the faculties at the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Syracuse University and, most recently, the University of California at Santa Barbara where he is professor emeritus. A colleague of Mircea Eliade, Long is among the central philosophical and cultural voices in the nation, reflecting on the deep impact of colonialism on the nature of multiracial societies in the modern era. Considered the preeminent founder and advocate of the study of black religion, long was exploring religion and colonialism and the importance of Afro-American religion as early as the 1960s and early 1970s. Charles Long is the author of some of the most significant works in the study of the history of religions discipline, including Significations: Signs, Symbols and Images in the Interpretation of Religion, a work that has influenced three generations of scholars and continues to influence the discipline. The 2018 King & Faith Lectures is also happy to celebrate Long’s forthcoming work, his last, Ellipsis: The Collected Writings of Charles H. Long, to be made available on February 8.

About the moderator

Dr. Clayborne Carson has devoted his professional life to the study of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movements King inspired. Since receiving his Doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Dr. Carson has taught at Stanford University, where he is now Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor of History and Ronnie Lott founding director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. During his undergraduate years at UCLA, Dr. Carson participated in civil rights and antiwar protests, and many of his subsequent writings reflect his experiences by stressing the importance of grassroots political activity within the African-American freedom struggle. Carson’s publications include In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (1981); Malcolm X: The FBI File (1991); The Struggle for Freedom: A History of African Americans (2005, 2010, co-author); and a memoir, Martin’s Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (2013). In 1985 the late Coretta Scott King invited Dr. Carson to direct a long-term project to edit and publish an authoritative edition of King’s speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications and unpublished writings. Under carson’s direction, the King Papers Project has produced seven volumes of the papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2005 Carson founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute to endow and expand the work of the king papers project.

About MLK2018: The Urgency of Now

Photo credit: George Conklin


Gresham Hall


Free and open to all


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